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Tristan and Isolde

Premiered at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall on 5 & 6 October 2018, Julian's full-length operatic recasting of the legendary tale of Tristan and Isolde was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. 

The performance featured the Julian Joseph Trio and members of his All-Star Big Band, along with the BBC Concert Orchestra and BBC Singers. The lead roles were taken by Carleen Anderson, Ken Papenfus, Christine Tobin, Renato Paris and Cleveland Watkiss.

The remastered recording will be broadcast on 12 November 2020 on BBC Radio 3 at 2 pm.

Music by Julian Joseph

Libretto by Mike Phillips

Conducted by Clark Rundell

Commissioned by the BBC as part of Beyond Boundaries: a series of bold collaborative concerts exploring music of the past and present.

Co-produced by James Joseph Management.

"The exploration of relationships combined with the sheer joyousness of jazz

to create a rich and profound experience."

Sam Smith, OMH

Windows into Tristan and Isolde

"A contemporary reimagining of a timeless romantic legend"


Two young people fall under the power of a passionate, eternal love, but past events – and Tristan and Isolde’s complex identities – lead inexorably to tragedy. 

Julian Joseph and librettist Mike Phillips explore in five scenes from this opera-in-progress the contemporary resonances of this ancient British legend, immortalized in Wagner’s opera. Joseph begins afresh with an original score in which composition and improvisation are entwined, illuminating this timeless tale of all-consuming love, its ecstasy and its tragedy.

Windows into Tristan and Isolde is played against a backdrop of cultural instability, the two lovers representing two very different sides of European identity. Their story becomes emblematic not only of themes of jealousy, vengeance and sacrifice, but of intercultural encounter and a society in flux.


Premiered at the Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio in September 2013. With Carleen Anderson, Christine Tobin, Cleveland Watkiss and Ken Papenfus, plus members of the Julian Joseph All-Star Big Band.

Music by Julian Joseph

Libretto by Mike Phillips


Commissioned by the Royal Opera House as part of Deloitte Ignite 2013.



Watch Now


Commissioned by the Hackney Music Development Trust, Shadowball is a jazz opera about the US Negro Baseball Leagues which involves young people in performance activities to promote interest in the game whilst addressing issues of racism and descrimination.

‘Shadow Ball’ refers to a common pre-game feature during which Negro League players warmed up by staging mock games with an imaginary ball. Though unintended, this pantomime was an apt metaphor for the exclusion of Blacks from Major League play in America for over 60 years. 

Using the stories of Black Baseball players in the 1930s-40s, and their jazz compatriots who often suffered similar racial prejudice, Shadowball is designed to inspire young people to achieve despite the odds.

Starring Cleveland Watkiss as Satchel Paige, the Julian Joseph Quintet and over 100 children from Hackney schools.

Click here for the Hackney Music Development Trust page.

"If this multi-faceted production has a message, it was that youngsters given something exciting to do might discover enough talent and inspiration to face this tough world with a smile." Jack Massarik, Evening Standard

Music by Julian Joseph

Libretto by Mike Phillips

Directed by Jonathan Moore

Bridgetower – A Fable of 1807

"We’ve left it so long. We’ve left it too long and I’ve thought I want to tell stories about culturally

what makes a person like me exist. I want to reflect who I am with music and stories.

We have to delve into our history; we must start telling our own stories."

Julian Joseph, 2007

Commissioned by the City of London Corporation for the 2007 City of London Festival to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first parliamentary bill to abolish slavery, Bridgetower – A Fable of 1807, tells the remarkable story of Polish-born violin prodigy George Bridgetower.

Born in 1778 to an Abyssinian ex-slave, Bridgetower came to London in 1789 to escape the French Revolution, where he performed to King George III and the Prince Regent, who in 1791 became his patron. Bridgetower studied with Haydn and was a great friend of Beethoven, with whom he gave the first performance of what was later to be named his Kreutzer Sonata. Acclaimed throughout Britain and Europe, Bridgetower gave over fifty concerts between 1789 and 1799, and was for fourteen years the star of the Prince Regent's Royal Pavilion Orchestra. He died in obscurity in 1860. 

Starring Cleveland Watkiss as George Bridgetower, Abigail Kelly as Mary Prince and Steve Williamson as Black Billy Waters.

Produced by the City of London Festival, English Touring Opera and James Joseph Music Management.


Promoted by Passage of Music and Arts Council England.

“Seamless, inspiring bridges between jazz and classical, black and white.” The Stage

Click here for programme notes from English Touring Opera's 2007 production.

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